A Close Look At Electronic Cigarettes
April 3, 2014

A Close Look At Electronic Cigarettes

We have all seem them, either in use or at the check out counter at your local gas station. E-cigarettes/vaporizers are the new thing in smoking. To some people, they are the latest craze. Others use them to try and wean themselves off of smoking. Some people use them to smoke in public places where normal smoking is not allowed, resuming smoking their regular cigarettes where able. People claim that these e-cigarettes are safer/better for you than regular tobacco cigarettes, but as of yet, the truth to such claims is not really known. Any potential long-term health risks associated with using e-cigarettes will not be known for many years. As its stands, what do we know? Recently, researchers from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center have examined e-cigarettes and their use in order to compile what little we do know about them and the impact they can have on someone’s health.

First off, how do they work? E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid solution and creating an inhalable vapor. A basic e-cigarette includes a battery – often USB charged – a cartridge that holds the solution, and the heating element. When the user presses a button and inhales, this creates a vacuum and the battery powers the heater to turn the solution into a vapor, which is then drawn out of the device and inhaled into the lungs. This is often called ‘vaping.’ Most of these devices look in many ways like a cigarette, some even including a light at the end to resemble the glow of a lit cigarette.

Are all e-cigarettes the same? No. While the first e-cigarettes were invented in China, there are now more than 400 different e-cigarette devices on the market, some of which are manufactured in the United States. Early testing of the newer designed e-cigarettes hint that these work more like a cigarette than older models, drawing the vapor deeper into the lungs, which allows for quicker absorption into the blood stream. This tends to make them more addictive than normal cigarettes, but also a better substitute. The newer vaporizer pens are similar to e-cigarettes, but what is vaporized in them varies greatly.

Will using an e-cigarette help someone quit? Unfortunately, there is presently no strong evidence supporting that it will, but often this is left up to the user. There is the trend of “dual-using” e-cigarettes with normal cigarettes, which in terms of trying to quit defeats the entire purpose. Using an e-cigarette when normal cigarettes are not allowed and then switching back to normal cigarettes when able is not a way to go about trying to quit. Also, because e-cigarettes and similar devices are presently unregulated by any agency, their safety and effectiveness have not been tested to the same extent. It is, at the moment, impossible to say if e-cigarettes are any safer than other tobacco products, which is why public health officials are reluctant to encourage their use over regular cigarettes.

Using an e-cigarette exclusively has been shown to help people quit smoking, but this is as much due to that person’s own drive and willpower as it is to the e-cigarette. Even so, if these devices are able to help people quit, and they are used for that purpose rather than merely for “dual-using,” I encourage their use. This is not to say that I disapprove of smoking, but rather that I am glad to encourage someone who has a desire to quit. Quitting can be hard, and anything that can help someone along the way holds a positive recommendation in my book.

Also, I think they smell good.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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